As part of our South Korea Special, dedicated to the country's games industry, we've been profiling a select few companies and organisations from the sector.
Today we're speaking with the organiser of the Busan Indie Connect Festival, a celebration of indie developers in the country.
Prior to its formation in 2015, various meet-up events called Open Plan Day and the Indie Developer Summit would take place. There are of course other large events as well, including G-STAR.
But there was still a keenness for a large event targetted solely at indie devs. Then a few years ago the Busan IT Promotion Agency (BIPA), which heads up the city of Busan's IT infrastructure, approached what's now the BIC Festival Organising Committee to put together an event, and in 2015 the first ever Busan Indie Connect Festival kicked off.
The most recent event took place on September 13th to 16th, attracting nearly 12,000 visitors.
To find out more about the show and South Korea's indie games scene, we spoke to the event's director Dustin Lee.
PocketGamer.biz: How successful was the most recent event?
Dustin Lee: We started with a small number of attendees. The first BIC in 2015 ended with 2,380 visitors,
but the 2016 show ended with 6,391 attendees, an increase of 169 per cent from the first year.
For the first two years, we opened up to the public with free tickets for Busan citizens, since we were not sure we could make a successful event with only indie games.
After the second BIC event, we decided to change to a closed event for gamers only and began to sell tickets to those who love indie games. It was a big decision for us.
But we found out there are many indie game fans in Korea. We were happy to see many indie game players who would play these titles while also giving nice feedback to exhibitors.
The third year of BIC (2017) ended with 10,273 attendees. Our decision was successful not only due to the numbers, but we also got good feedback from exhibitors and attendees and this year (2018) we hosted 11,797 attendees.
The goal of BIC is not to get big numbers, we hope to have a good quality event for game player and exhibitors.
We just want to make a real developer and consumer-oriented games event.
How would you describe the state of South Korea's indie games market right now?
South Korea indie games market is changing every quarter and year.
Currently, the mobile games market is dominated by huge publishers which make games based on old IP.
But the number of Korean Steam gamers are increasing nowadays due to the success of Playerunknown's Battlegrounds. Some indie teams have a good record on the Steam market, but the indie market size is still small.
What are the biggest challenges facing indie games developers in South Korea right now on mobile and PC?
Marketing. There should be a way to promote nice indie games to players. We want to make that BIC, which will be a good curator for gamers who love indie games.
Currently, the mobile games market is dominated by huge publishers which make games based on old IP.Dustin Lee
How are indie developers competing with the big publishers to get noticed?
I think that indies have to have a different strategy to big publishers.
Since big publishers' games are targetted at the majority, indie games developers should look to differentiate from these.
I think that making rogue-likes is still effective for indies. It's still popular with players and has a reasonable development cost.
I believe that there are still many gamers who have not experienced this genre. Indies used to have short-term development cycles, but I think that indies have to put more effort into making better quality games nowadays, with longer-term development cycles.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Every year, we have tried an experimental event in BIC. This year, we agreed to collaborate with YouTube agency named DIA TV We wanted to make a plan to make a better impact on games players.
This year, we tried a special event with one YouTuber belonging to DIA TV. One of the indie teams at the show made a specialised demo game exclusively for the YouTuber.
The YouTuber broadcasted with his own content and it was successful. We'll share the results of the collaboration at a later date.
Join Steel Media and Jagex Partners to explore the Korean market first hand at G-STAR, the biggest games conference in the region. We're running the finale of the Big Indie Awards, two Big Indie Pitches and a PG Party in association with Persona.ly, Jagex and G-Star, whilst Jagex is launching its Jagex Partner program, looking to connect with developers and publishers in the 'living games' space.
This article is part of our South Korea Special running all through this week.